Patreon vs YouTube: Which Platform is the best?

05/01/2024
Patreon vs YouTube: Which Platform is the best?

For independent creators producing videos, podcasts, illustrations, or any other media, figuring out how to get paid for your work is super important. However, monetizing online content is complex, with many factors to weigh.

Patreon and YouTube offer two distinct models for creators to generate income from their audiences. On Patreon, fans pay creators directly on a recurring basis. On YouTube, creators earn a share of advertising revenue generated by their videos.

This article will dive into the pros, cons, and differences between monetizing through Patreon versus YouTube. By the end, you’ll understand the critical distinctions between these two leading creative monetization platforms. You’ll be equipped to decide which option – Patreon or YouTube – best aligns with your content, audience, and revenue goals.

What’s A YouTube Membership?

In 2018, YouTube introduced a new monetization tool – channel memberships. This feature allows viewers to pay a monthly fee to support creators they love. In exchange, members get special perks like exclusive emoji, badges, posts, and more.

YouTube memberships provide another revenue stream on top of ads. Creators can monetize existing content while cultivating a closer community of engaged fans.

To enable memberships, creators must meet a few key eligibility criteria:

  • Have over 1,000 subscribers
  • Be in the YouTube Partner Program
  • Be 18+ years old

These requirements ensure creators have an established audience to sell memberships to.

The membership model is similar to Patreon. Fans pay monthly for insider bonuses. But instead of leaving YouTube, everything happens directly through the channel itself.

YouTube members get a special badge displayed next to their name in comments and live chat. This lets creators easily identify their biggest supporters.

Other membership perks may include:

  • Custom emoji to use in comments/chat
  • Exclusive community posts and vlogs
  • Members-only live streams
  • Access to Discord or Facebook groups
  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • Shoutouts
  • Merch/product discounts

Memberships allow creators to tier bonuses like on Patreon. For example, $4.99 per month could be the “Gold” level while $9.99 unlocks the “Diamond” tier.

Higher tiers feature increasingly valuable rewards to incentivize bigger pledges. But offering a low-cost option opens memberships to more fans.

YouTube memberships blend the recurring income of Patreon with the platform power of YouTube itself. Creators can leverage both tools to diversify revenue.

What is Patreon?

Founded in 2013, Patreon is a platform designed for fans to support creators through recurring monthly payments. Anyone from musicians to YouTubers to writers can monetize their work.

Patreon allows creators to offer exclusive benefits to paying members. These bonuses help incentivize patrons to pledge anything from $1 to $100+ per month.

Common Patreon perks include:

  • Access to Discord servers
  • Bonus or ad-free content
  • Sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes looks
  • Live Q&A sessions
  • Custom art/shoutouts
  • Private podcast feeds
  • Merch discounts
  • Early access

By funding creators directly, patrons feel connected and invested in their work. In return, artists can focus on producing content for their loyal community rather than for faceless algorithms.

Unlike YouTube, Patreon membership doesn’t impose strict limitations around content. Anything legal is permitted, from adult material to controversial opinions.

Patreon provides creators greater independence and control. But reaching new audiences outside the platform can be challenging.

Many successful creators leverage both Patreon and YouTube in tandem. YouTube helps attract a wide subscriber base, delivering fans to patronize on Patreon after. Combined, the two models maximize revenue potential.

Why Create a Paid Membership Community?

YouTube creators have several compelling reasons to launch paid memberships through platforms like Patreon or YouTube Channel Memberships.

Why Create a Paid Membership Community?

Earn More Money

Paid memberships provide creators an additional revenue stream beyond just ads. Rather than relying solely on YouTube monetization, creators can generate income directly from fans.

Even channels with modest subscribers can earn real money through memberships. Patreon in particular makes it easy to monetize smaller, niche audiences.

Diversify Income Streams

Every YouTuber depends on the platform’s algorithm for discovering videos. Changes to search and suggested rankings can drastically impact earnings.

Paid memberships lessen this risk by diversifying income. If ad revenue drops, subscription funding provides a safety net.

Memberships also hedge against demonetization, a constant threat as YouTube tightens restrictions. Direct audience support insulates creators from policy changes.

Build a Loyal Community

Viewers willing to regularly pay for exclusive content become a creator’s most engaged fans. These superfans feel invested in their work.

Paid members offer social proof and word-of-mouth promotion. Their recurring support funds bigger projects. Exclusive perks boost retention.

By incentivizing meaningful creator-fan connections, memberships help cultivate brand loyalty beyond just video subscribers.

In summary, paid memberships diversify revenue, create stability, foster community, and reward creators for the true value they provide to fans.

Pros of Patreon vs YouTube for Building a Membership Community

When it comes to building a passionate and engaged community around your content, both Patreon and YouTube Channel Memberships present compelling options. However, choosing the right platform for your membership community requires carefully examining the unique strengths of each. By unlocking the key benefits Patreon and YouTube each provide, you can make an informed decision to thrive in community building.

Pros of Patreon Membership

Patreon offers creators several advantages for building a paid membership community compared to YouTube Channel Memberships. Some of the main benefits include:

No Minimum Subscriber Requirement

One of the best aspects of Patreon is that there is no minimum subscriber or follower count needed to start a paid membership program. This means creators can build a paid community even if they only have a few hundred regular viewers or subscribers.

With YouTube Channel Memberships, you need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months to be eligible. This automatically excludes smaller creators and forces them to grow their free audience substantially before they can start generating any paid revenue.

More Flexible Pricing and Revenue Share

Patreon also offers more flexible monetization options compared to YouTube memberships. Creators can customize their membership tiers and perks while also setting custom prices. For example, you could offer a $5 per month tier along with a premium $50 per month option.

Additionally, Patreon’s revenue share model is more favorable for creators. Patreon takes between 5-12% as their platform fee. YouTube memberships have a standard 30% revenue share model, similar to other digital marketplaces.

Ability to Bring Fans from Other Platforms

Since Patreon operates as a standalone membership platform, creators can redirect fans and followers from other social media accounts to join their Patreon community. This lets you aggregate audiences from YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc.

With YouTube memberships you can only target your current YouTube subscribers and viewers. Although this is still a large potential audience, it limits your ability to monetize fans on other platforms.

Patreon Membership

Cons of Patreon Membership

While Patreon has its advantages, there are also some drawbacks to building a membership community outside of YouTube:

Requires Redirecting Users Off-Platform

The biggest disadvantage of using Patreon for your YouTube membership is needing to redirect users off of YouTube and on to the Patreon website and app. This can create extra friction in the signup process and lead to loss of signups.

With YouTube Channel Memberships the join process happens natively within YouTube, reducing steps and making it seamless for users to become paying members.

Can Be More Work for Creators to Manage

Managing a Patreon membership also involves more work for creators. You need to integrate your YouTube channel and schedule with your Patreon feed and posts. This can take extra time and effort to coordinate compared to handling everything directly on YouTube.

For example, posting unlisted YouTube videos and live stream links exclusively for Patreon members requires an additional step. Whereas with YouTube memberships this distribution to paid subscribers happens automatically.

Pros of YouTube Channel Memberships

While Patreon offers more flexibility, YouTube Channel Memberships have their own set of advantages, including:

Easier Discovery and Signup for Members

YouTube Channel Memberships makes it easy for existing subscribers to become paying members through on-platform discovery and by clicking the “Join” button on a channel’s homepage.

This on-site conversion typically leads to higher signup rates compared to having to direct users outside of YouTube to join a Patreon community.

Simpler Management with YouTube Studio

YouTube Studio provides a unified dashboard to manage both your free subscribers and paying channel members. You can easily check your membership revenue reports, user analytics, and publish exclusive member content.

This enables you to manage your entire membership program directly within YouTube Studio without needing external integrations and extra steps that Patreon requires.

YouTube Channel Memberships

Cons of YouTube Channel Memberships

However, while discovery and management are easier with YouTube memberships, there are some limitations to be aware of:

Higher Revenue Cut for YouTube

The 30% revenue share that YouTube takes for channel memberships is significantly higher than the 5-12% Patreon charges. This can cut into a creator’s earnings, especially when just starting out.

Rigid Eligibility Requirements

YouTube also has strict criteria channels must meet before they can activate the membership feature. This includes having over 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past year.

This automatically excludes smaller channels from using YouTube memberships. However, they can still build a paid community on Patreon without meeting subscriber requirements.

Leveraging Both Platforms to Maximize Revenue

While Patreon and YouTube memberships compete in some ways, many successful creators leverage both tools simultaneously.

Using a hybrid monetization strategy provides multiple revenue streams while catering to different segments of your audience.

YouTube as the On-Ramp

Due to its billions of users and powerful recommendation engine, YouTube acts as the main “on-ramp” for creators to attract an audience.

Channels earn subscribers through YouTube’s browse and search features. This wide reach would be difficult to match independently.

Once a creator builds a dedicated viewership on YouTube, they can then direct their most engaged fans to join a Patreon membership.

YouTube brings in the masses, while Patreon monetizes the diehard core supporters.

Different Benefits for Different Fans

On YouTube, creators can offer basic memberships tiers with exclusive emoji, badges, and chat perks to the general audience for just a few dollars per month.

For superfans willing to pay more, Patreon unlocks things like monthly video calls, personalized merchandise, early access, and private Discord channels.

This caters to both casual viewers and hardcore devotees simultaneously.

Don’t Put All Eggs in One Basket

Relying solely on YouTube also presents a risk. Changes to search rankings, demonetization, stringent guidelines, and other platform decisions can severely impact income.

Patreon insulates creators from this dependence on a single distributor. If anything happens to one revenue stream, the other remains intact.

In summary, combining YouTube membership perks for the masses and premium Patreon tiers for true patrons optimizes monetization from both breadth and depth of fans. This diversification hedges risk and multiplies earning potential.

Key Takeaways and Final Thoughts

Deciding between Patreon and YouTube memberships requires assessing your specific audience, content type, and income goals. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Patreon offers predictable recurring revenue, closer community engagement, and creative independence. But reaching new fans is harder.
  • YouTube provides incredible visibility and built-in discovery to attract viewers. But it offers less control and lower revenue share.
  • Creators seeking mainstream scale and opportunity tend to prefer YouTube monetization. Those wanting creative freedom and fan funding gravitate to Patreon.
  • Utilizing both platforms together combines their strengths. YouTube brings in the masses, Patreon monetizes superfans.
  • Diversifying income between ads, memberships, merch, events, and more insulates creators from over-reliance on any one stream.

As the passion economy continues growing, more tools emerge for independent creators to monetize their work directly from fans. But effectively leveraging these options requires understanding their nuances in the context of your unique goals.

With thoughtful strategy, creators can piece together various monetization puzzles into a sustainable living fueled by their creativity and community. Both Patreon and YouTube memberships unlock their own advantages that combined can take your channel’s earning potential to the next level.

What platform works best comes down to each creator’s specific priorities. But no matter which options you choose, the future looks bright for turning content creation into a full-time career by cultivating and monetizing an engaged audience.

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